I met someone and as soon as I got home, I stalked him online – the usual. I dug deep into his Facebook profile and also found his Instagram handle. The IG profile was a private one, but there was a link of an organisation in the bio. It opened to a page which provided information on the people working for it – and there he was.
He had a big smile on his face, captured just like DiCaprio in the Strutting Leo meme. Now, the game changer was the bio that followed below the picture. No, there wasn’t anything surprising there – everything was just as he had told me. But, as I read through the profile, the person I had just met exited my mind and the Executive Director of a start-up from an esteemed institution – who also happened to play the violin – stayed.
I was intimidated by the profile. “I shouldn’t be dating him… I should get his interview,” I thought to myself. The profile wasn’t even lying. He had told me most of the things that it mentioned. Then, why was I feeling like I didn’t really know the man in the profile even though I had met him?
Two words: Narrative Building.
Digital biographies or social media profiles can be a source of many things – information, news, photos, stories, etc. But the thing they sell the best? Narratives.
These narratives may vary in genre but they all ultimately aim to convince us into believing them. We do believe them and make assumptions, which direct our thoughts about the person. I had met this person and had felt at ease around him. But switch to the profile and I was intimidated; tensed at the idea of meeting the profile-person.
His profile built a narrative that spoke about his achievements, hobbies and interests. Just like mine, or anyone else’s. The profile spoke nothing of his calm temper and respectful behaviour, just like mine stays mum about the intimidation I felt. Our profiles do not take into account our innate human qualities.
We have accepted and conformed to a system which is designed to represent us devoid of our humanness. We build a narrative in our minds based on this representation and make a judgement. I, for one, thought, “Such achievements, much wow,” followed by a “Man, I haven’t done shit in life.” None of which came to my mind while I was actually sitting in front of him.
The stories personal profiles try to sell do not include a person’s emotional intelligence, their empathy level, kindness or respectful attitude. Such narratives may turn out to be efficient tools in some cases, like mapping specific skill sets of a person for a job. But Facebook and Instagram do not do that. Instead, they claim to represent us wholly.
Well, let’s clear the air around it – they don’t.
We are not limited to our educational qualification, achievements, birth date, or the last hotel/flight check-in. We are people with all that, plus feelings, thoughts and emotions. So, the next time we stalk someone’s profile maybe we can keep that in mind.
Featured image credit: Unsplash